Friday, May 24, 2013

Spain: Madrid Street Notes

Random street notes from Madrid:

Bookstores.  Others go to pub crawls and bullfights. I wind up in bookstores and I still don't get it with the bookstores of major European cities.  They have stacks of stuff, tightly packed, floor to ceiling.  I haven't fouind anything yet as overpowering as Paris or London, but the general flavor is the same.  Which makes me wonder: is this culture lag, or something in the tax/subsidy structure, or some combination thereof?    One distinction about Spain as against other places I've seen: I'm  not finding as much in foreign languages.  I find foreign authors: here's a collection of John Cheever stories on display up by the front door, near to couple of George Orwells and a Dashiell Hamett.  Odd choices, what?  And all in Spanish.  In Paris (or Rome) you might well find French (or Italian)--but there'd be some English versions tucked away in the corner.  Maybe I just haven't found the corner.

Street politics: passed one small demonstration yesterday outside some fort of government building just off the Puerta del Sol.  Mostly elderly, which is to say close to my age.  Placards suggested something about health care and pensions.  Also something about "bancos ladrones," which ought to get broad assent.  Lung power still good in this crowd, though: lots of old-fashioned police whistles.  Evidently in a country so encumbered with economic problems, the beleagured masses are finding some other way to make their wants known.

Oh, and on a slightly more direct note.  I stood at the coffee bar this morning beside a strapping (easily taller than I) 125-pounder who ordered up a latte and a gooey goody.  She spent the whole of  breakfast break trying to brush off the accompanying powdered sugar.  Then with a plastic knife, she carefully sawed the goody in two, as if to restrict her intake to just one half.  I didn't linger to see her give in and scarf down the other half.

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